Tales from the Darkside Episode 50: The Bitterest Pill

General Information

Director: Bryan Michael Stoller

Writers: Michael Kube-McDowell and Jule Selbo

Cast: Mark Blankfield, Joseph Carafello, Catherine Battistone, Jason Horst, John Marzilli, and Paul Sparer

Composers: Ken Lauber and Hilary Bercovici

Air Date: 10/12/1986



After winning the lottery, Harlan and Margery Bender (Joseph Carafello and Catherine Battistone) are approached by Tinker (Mark Blankfield)—a family acquaintance who, having invented pills that can unlock the full potential of the human brain, requires financing for his miraculous drug. Rejecting Tinker’s proposal, HarlanTales from the Darkside The Bitterest Pill dumps the pills onto the floor and orders his son Jonathan (Jason Horst) to clean up the mess—with an ironic outcome.

This episode offers a cringe-worthy, unamusing twist on the concept of a “smart pill” enhancing human abilities beyond natural limits. Science fiction buffs would therefore be wise to forgo “The Bitterest Pill” in favor of Limitless (2011), which benefits from a thought-provoking interpretation of the above premise.






“The Bitterest Pill” deserves criticism for its annoying group of characters: Margery, a flirtatious and inattentive housewife; Harlan, a mean-spirited fatherTales from the Darkside The Bitterest Pill who shouts at the top of his lungs when provoked; Jonathan, an abused yet poorly behaved child with only mildly sympathetic qualities, and an eccentric mad scientist named Tinker, whose absent-minded genius routine borders on the obnoxious.

Also problematic is the superfluous nature of the opening scene, which explains how Harlan and Margery acquire ten million dollars in spite of their idiotic tendencies—a narrative detail that could instead have been revealed through a brief line of expository dialogue.



Tales from the Darkside The Bitterest PillThough nearly devoid of intellectual value, “The Bitterest Pill” demonstrates the importance of investing one’s fortune—hard-earned or otherwise—instead of squandering it on material assets.


Concluding Comments

“The Bitterest Pill” is marred by juvenile humor and headache-inducing performances. The main theme of this episode should be noted, however, for its captivating potential as a science fiction trope.


Overall Quality: 1/10


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